Saturday, February 19, 2011

22




Dave Duerson was from Muncie, Indiana.

He was a year younger than I, and due to my marrying into a Notre Dame family, I saw Dave play his last 2 years of college ball. Hell of player.

During high school, he was offered the chance to play baseball in the Dodgers farm system, which he passed up. He was a National Honor Student at Muncie Northside High School, a member of The Musical Ambassadors All-American Band, and a great basketball player to boot.

But football was Dave's great passion and he was voted Indiana's Mr. Football in 1979. So it was a natural that he'd go to ND.

A 4 year starter, he was a two-time All-American, the Fightin' Irish MVP in 1982, and somewhere in there he found time to graduate with honors, and a BA in econ.

I remember the day the Bears drafted him in '83. One of those 3rd round picks that most people don't give a shrug about but I was glad when Dave became a Chicago Bear. I knew they'd grabbed a hell of a player.

Dave was one of those guys who was always where he was supposed to be on the field. Back in the day, that was saying something because the Bears defense was not exactly easy to break into.

The defensive coach...guy by the name of Buddy Ryan had a real tendency to hate rookies. The reason I know that is because in interviews Buddy used to say "I hate rookies."

But Buddy started saying great things about Dave right from the first training camp. Great things, like "He doesn't suck" and "He might become a decent ballplayer some day." Might as well have been putting a stamp on 22. "OK, I'll take this guy."

So Dave made the team, but imagine being 21 years old, and walking into a locker room only to be greeted by Gary Fencik, Wilbur Marshall, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Mike Hartenstein, Steve McMichael, Richard Dent looking up at the FNG. Right around then, according to legend, Otis Wilson and his down-to-his-knee cock walked by and said "What the fuck do you want? Get your rookie ass out of my face motherfucker."

Ahhh. The club. Nothing like being in a club and beating the shit out of the new meat. Nothing like being the new meat either. Been both, the former is better. But once you're in, you're in.

Dave survived his rookie year, and became a starter the next.

They named The 46 Defense after the Bears D. Buddy called it The 46 because it involved substituting Doug Plank for a linebacker. Plank was a psycho who would smash into fullbacks twice his size, and was famous, infamous...for leading with the crown of his helmet. He was 180 lbs, and would run full speed from his safety position into a 240 lb running back, who was running full speed at Plank. Boom!

Plank played safety like a madman, and it was said that he was running head first into guys back in his Ohio State days too, and so by the time the Bears reached the Super Bowl in '85, Plank's body had crapped out on him. He was finished. Use that helmet as a weapon too many times and funny shit happens to your brain, only not funny funny.

Dave Duerson played safety for Buddy's 46 in that blowout against the Pats. Another hard hitting guy. Had to be if you wanted to play safety in Buddy's 46. Had to be able to drop into pass coverage, but also be able to rush the quarterback. Dave set a record in '86 (since broken) for QB sacks by a defensive back with 7.

Always smart on the field. Dave was like a defensive quarterback, only he didn't have to be because we had Singletary but that's a different story. Dave was a real heads-up player.

22 was the guy who threw the block nobody noticed when Hollywood Mike Richardson ran a Tony Eason interception back for a TD in Super Bowl XX. Hell of a season, and a real nice career with the Bears. But that's a funny position. Guys break down fast playing that shit.

That's why I liked kicking the ball. Kick it, go have a smoke, talk to some friends in the stands. Kick it again. Good times.

Dave went to the Giants a couple of years later, and won another Super Bowl with them before retiring in 1993.

Nice career stats, NFL Man of The Year Award one time, and then it was on to the Honcho section in South Bend, and a string of McDonalds restaurants. Sold his shit in that and bought a sausage company that eventually sold sosseege to Burger King. Took that company from 20something million a year to 60something million a year before selling that. Then he started Duerson Foods in 2002, but that went south on Dave.

And his marriage started to show signs of problems. His wife filed domestic abuse charges a few years ago, and that made headlines around here. Mr. Nice Guy beats the shit out of his wife. Notre Dame cut Dave loose immediately. Notre Dame is not exactly famous for dealing with things the right way. They let shit happen right under their noses and not say a word, but when the image is at stake. Adios Dave.

Duerson Foods went broke in 2006. They sold Dave's stuff. Receivership.

The Duerson's officially split up a couple of years ago and Dave moved to Sunny Isles Beach, FL.

Duerson told his family that when he dies, he wants his brain given to Boston University's med school for study. Dave wanted to help researchers learn more about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain condition that used be known as "punch drunk." Repeated blows to the head, which cause depression, mood swings, erratic behavior is believed to effect a large number of former professional football players (and hockey players and boxers.)

That's what Dave said in a text message he sent to his family on Thursday. Be sure to get my brain to Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

And then Dave shot himself in the chest.

Dave Duerson- 1960-2011

9 comments:

Penal-Colony said...

Fuck!

Michael said...

Yeah, weird story. I went from being a fan, to being disappointed in him because of the domestic charge, to being I don't know what now. That split second pause,when the news broke ...In the chest? Oh I see.....was creepy. Almost too clear-thinking or something. Like Meriweather Lewis. One in the heart and one in the head. That's getting it done with a plan.

MichaelRyerson said...

Life is complicated. Yeah, I know, but that's all I got.

Michael said...

It is indeed. His wife's comments after his death made me think. 24 years together, 3 kids, up until the end very successful, and yet...it's a legacy. The whole deal including the abuse charge. I think she's right though. Dave should be remembered for more than that one incident.

MichaelRyerson said...

Yeah, it's never simple. You just can't crawl into another guy's head, can't see inside other people's relationships.

Anonymous said...

Dave Duerson was very involved helping raise money for Lupus research. My sister ran the Illinois chapter for a few years and he was a fixture at their events. He was a sharp guy and my sister and oldest brother always used to say that they thought he'd be in politics one day, and they said that in a good way.

- - Robert

Michael said...

The Chronic Traumatic Ecephalopathy thing was not a last second whim for Dave. He's been involved with that group for awhile now. Since Culverhouse's widow threw light on it 3-4 years ago at least. He also had it out with Ditka, in a public radio forum, about how poorly the league takes care of its players after they retire. He was very sharp guy Robert, who did a lot of good things in his life. As his wife said on Friday, we should remember Duerson as a husband, father, and a good citizen. If she can, I can. Sure as hell called attention to the CTE thing on his way out.

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